Roger Deakins Shot 1917 to Look Like a Single Continuous Shot

Director Sam Mendes upcoming World War I epic 1917 enjoyed one considerable advantage during filming: he had the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins at his disposal. Mendes and Deakins collaborated on one of the best Bond films of all time—2012’s Skyfall. Now they’re back with 1917, and what they’ve pulled off sounds astonishing. The ever-ambitious Mendes went for something really special on 1917; he had Deakins and his nimble camera team create the illusion that the entire film is one long continuous shot. We learned this thanks to a new behind-the-scenes look at the film released by Universal. In the below video, Deakins, Mendes, writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, and stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman dive into the details on how you make an entire film feel like a single shot. The story follows two British soldiers (MacKay’s Schofield and Chapman’s Blake) on their mission to deliver a message that could save 1,600 lives. In the process of trying to deliver the message, Deakins camera follows them across the killing fields of the war in a relentless, harrowing, yet intimate journey.

“It was fundamentally an emotional choice,” Mendes told Vanity Fair. “I wanted to travel every step with these men—to breathe every breath with them. It needed to be visceral and immersive. What they are asked to do is almost impossibly difficult. The way the movie is made is designed to bring you as close as possible to that experience.”

Take a look at the behind-the-scenes video here:

While we’ve seen attempts at this before, most notably in Alfonso Cuáron’s 2014 film Birdman, Mendes film will push the one-shot illusion into new territory. The film runs at one hour and 50 minutes, and the story you’ll watch on screen plays out in real time, across battlefields, with death and destruction all around.

“The movie is essentially linear, and moves through a huge variety of different locations,” Mendes tells Vanity Fair. “From the trenches, to No Man’s Land, to open countryside, farmland, orchards, rivers, woods, and bombed-out towns. It bears witness to the staggering destruction wrought by the war, and yet it is a fundamentally human story about two young and inexperienced soldiers racing against the clock. So it adheres more to the form of a thriller than a conventional war movie.”

1917 hits theaters on December 25, expanding wide on January 10.

Featured: ‘1917’. Courtesy Universal Pictures


Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.